RV Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs: What to Do?
If you are an owner or a frequent user of an RV, you may have encountered this unpleasant odor. Does the water from your taps and showers smell like rotten eggs whenever you open the faucet? However, there are several steps you can take to eliminate this odor and ensure that your RV water remains clean and fresh.
- The RV water may smell due to sulfur or hydrogen sulfide gas.
- Identify the source: campground supply, RV tank, or plumbing.
- RV tank smell: Flush with bleach-water mixture following instructions.
- System-wide odor: Use a water filter for sulfur compound removal.
- Maintain RV water system clean faucets, and hoses regularly.
This can be alarming and off-putting, but it is important to address the problem promptly. The foul odor is usually caused by sulfur in the water supply. Sulfur is a natural element found in various water sources and can react with certain bacteria, resulting in the distinct smell of rotten eggs.
Recreational vehicles come with holding tanks: freshwater, greywater, and blackwater tanks. You will notice the rotten egg smell in your freshwater tanks, especially if you have stored it away for some time. The reason behind this is the increase in Sulphur bacteria in the holding tanks.
RV Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs
If your water smells like rotten eggs, the odor is usually due to high Sulphur microbes and hydrogen sulfide gas in the water tanks. Hydrogen sulfide gas produces a strong and unpleasant “rotten egg” odor and taste. If the smell is in hot water, this could be metals in the water heater reacting with the water.
Types of Sulphur Found in Water
Did you know drinking water across the US comes with over 300 chemicals? Now you know. Many people will tell you that strange odors from their taps are a common problem, especially when the supply is from a holding tank. There are two forms of Sulphur in water: sulfate and hydrogen sulfide.
Sulfate is a result of Sulphur combining with Oxygen. Sulfates occur naturally in soil and rocks. Over time, these minerals are released into the water. Hydrogen sulfide, on the other hand, forms when organic matter decomposes underground.
These bacteria chemically change the natural sulfates in water into hydrogen sulfide. Sulfur-based bacteria thrive in oxygen-deprived water found in tanks and wells.
An elevated concentration of hydrogen sulfides in water can alter the taste of water and produce an awful egg odor. Sulfates have no smell but leave build-up in water that can make it taste bitter.
Hydrogen sulfide in water damages pipes by destroying numerous types of metals, causing stains on plumbing fixtures and silverware.
How to Get Rid of Sulphur Dioxide in Your RV Water
Undoubtedly, the smell of the rotten egg is not only a nuisance but also embarrassing. With this, you must find a way of getting rid of it. But how? Well, the first thing you need to do is identify the source of the smell. If you open the taps and the water stinks, the problem lies in the freshwater tank.
Take note of where the odor comes from; it may indicate that all your holding tanks need a thorough cleaning. Gray and black water tanks sometimes release unpleasant smells, especially if they are almost full and not well-cleaned. In the water heater, the bacteria react with magnesium or aluminum anode rods to produce a rotten egg smell.
The second step that you need to do is to open all the taps for five minutes to clear all the sulfate clogs that may be causing the smell. If this doesn’t work, it is time to bring in the big guns in the form of peroxide.
We recommend leaving the tank half-empty, adding about 20 ounces of hydrogen peroxide to the water, leaving it for three hours, and then dumping all the water. Do the same for the water heater.
After this, you must thoroughly clean the holding tank because hydrogen peroxide is toxic when swallowed. You can substitute hydrogen peroxide for household vinegar.
To eliminate this odor in your heater, go for an aluminum-zinc anode. This anode helps eliminate bacteria activity that produces the dreaded smell.
Unclogging Water Pipes in the RV
At least once a year, take time and maintain all water pipes in the trailer. Take your camper for yearly maintenance at the RV center, where all worn pipes will be replaced. You can cut costs if you can do all the maintenance yourself. Unclogging pipes regularly will ensure your pipes are free from clogging all the time.
We recommend flushing your water heaters and pipes with bleach. Flushing helps eliminate calcium deposits and sediments that collect in heaters and water pipes over time.
We highly recommend using flushing wands, which help increase the freshwater pressure. The wands are directed deep into the pipe and the part below the drain. A lot of pressure is exerted, which assists in loosening calcium inside the tank.
Click here to read how to sanitize an RV freshwater system without bleach
Here is how to flush
For a 40-gallon tank, use one cup of bleach to four cups of water. If your tanks are bigger, add more bleach accordingly. Add this mixture to an empty holding tank and fill it with fresh water. Then, run all taps in the RV, including the shower, until the tank is empty.
Once empty, fill the tank with water and let it sit for at least 12 hours. Repeat draining the tank through the faucets three times or until you can’t smell bleach.
Cleaning Grey and Black Tanks
Sometimes, smells and fumes can come from the waste tanks in the camper. You need to clean all tanks to eliminate all odor from the trailer. Make it a habit to dump waste when the camper is stored away. If you don’t do this, the residue will harden in the pipes and tanks and cause the stink.
Before dumping greywater -water from the sink and shower, add a cup of baking soda to a gallon of water, pour it into the sink, and drain it. This will help with keeping bad odors at bay.
My chemical products are specifically made to handle the black tank waste odors. After draining the tanks, rinse with clean water and add treatment.
This will prevent the growth of bacteria in the containers. Start by dumping black waste first, followed by greywater. The greywater will help flush out anything stuck in the black tank.
Is Sulphur Harmful?
Despite the awful smell that tingles your nose, hydrogen sulfide is harmless when consumed in water. The choking smell of the water will deter many from drinking it. High amounts of Sulphur in water could cause corrosion on some types of metals. Consuming heavy metals could cause health risks.
Ways to Get Sulphur Out of Drinking Water
As you travel across the country, you will collect water with different minerals and contaminants. This is where chlorine comes into play. Adding chlorine to your water will kill some of the bacteria. Chlorine reacts with hydrogen sulfide to form tasteless, odorless particles.
The particles then form a yellow film left in the tank and can leave stains on clothing and plumbing fixtures. They can be filtered using an aggregate filter.
Tiny amounts of Hydrogen Sulfide can be removed from water with activated carbon filters. The filters work by absorbing the Hydrogen Sulfide onto the surface of the carbon particles. You will need to replace the activated carbon filters periodically for them to work effectively.
Aeration uses Oxygen in the air to react with hydrogen sulfide to form an odorless, dissolved form of Sulphur called sulfate. Some yellow Sulphur particles may also form after the water is aerated.
Aeration systems also remove high levels of iron and manganese if a sediment filtration system is added to filter out the solids formed after the aeration process.
Installing a filtration system in your RV will ensure safe drinking, cooking, and showering water.
How often should I sanitize my RV water tank?
The frequency of sanitizing your RV water tank can vary based on usage and manufacturer’s recommendations. Some manufacturers suggest the sanitization process “after each use.”
This could mean after every trip, or it could be interpreted as once a year, typically during spring when most RV owners de-winterize their vehicles for spring camping.
Therefore, “How often should I sanitize my RV water tank?” does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. As a rule of thumb, annual sanitization is common among most RVers. However, if you use your RV frequently, it may be beneficial to sanitize more regularly to ensure optimal water quality.
How to Maintain A Stink-Free Camper
A motorhome can quickly start smelling bad because it’s an enclosed, small space. Here are tips to help you keep a clean-smelling camper all the time.
Don’t wait until waste tanks are full to empty. Wait until your black and grey tanks are two-thirds full, and then dump the waste. Always give your containers a good rinse every time you empty them.
When you cook indoors, open a window and crank the fan to draw fresh air into the camper. Strong foods can leave your camper smelling fishy for days.
Get a fan for your bathroom to keep the space dry all the time after showering. Wet enclosed spaces tend to develop a musty smell when not completely dried. Fighting humidity in the camper will also prevent the growth of toxic mold.
Use baking soda to fight smells. Pour baking soda into the sink and flush with hot water. Baking soda is very effective in fighting odor.
Like you would conduct spring cleaning in your home, once in a while, give your home on the road a good cleaning. You will likely accumulate much dirt on the road from the living space, kitchen, and toilet.
This video has been included for its clarification of the topic matter. Credit goes to the National RV Training Academy.
The issue of RV water smelling like rotten eggs can be quite a nuisance for RV owners. The offensive odor is primarily due to sulfur or hydrogen sulfide gas within the water system.
The first step in addressing this issue is to accurately identify the source of the smell, which could be the campground supply, the RV tank, or the plumbing. If the RV tank is the culprit, thorough flushing with a bleach-water mixture per instructions can effectively neutralize the smell.
Using a water filter specifically designed for sulfur compound removal is advisable for a system-wide odor. Regular maintenance of the RV water system is crucial to prevent this issue from recurring.
This includes routine cleaning of all faucets and hoses. Therefore, if your ‘RV Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs: What to Do?’ question often bothers you, these practical solutions can offer substantial relief.